2016 12″ MacBook + desk setup

I am not an early adopter, but after playing with a 12″ retina MacBook in person last summer, I knew I’d make the jump soon enough. Then the 2016 v2 (or maybe more like v1.5) updates came, and more USB-C peripherals, and that rose gold! Yes, it is very pink – possibly too pink. No, the person who tweeted that it was like having a Michael Kors laptop is not entirely wrong. Doesn’t matter: I am unashamedly into it, and also rather love the idea of having a pink laptop at tech events. 💁🏻👗👠

I agree with the praise I’ve heard: the weight, the screen, the speaker, the trackpad, the form factor; they’re all amazing. It accomplishes my major goals perfectly – a retina screen and even better portability with the (lack of) weight, smaller size, and quick disconnect from my home workstation. Performance-wise, it is essentially equivalent to the 2013 MacBook Air it’s replacing, but given that I had no problems doing my work with that machine, more power was not critical. I am also perfectly happy with the things most people seem to complain about: the keyboard (yes, it is shallow, and okay the arrow key setup still sucks) and the single USB-C port.

The single port is completely manageable, and not just through dongles (can we find a better word for these already?). There are a couple of USB-C monitors available as of the last few months, which can send power while receiving the display signal and handling I/O for on-board USB 3 ports. I went with a 2560 x 1440 27″ Acer, which is quite nice and happens to fit my not-black-hardware aesthetic. I am not running it at HiDPI (1280 x 720), for a few reasons: I have been using monitors at this resolution for several years and like my window setup, I am fairly far away from it most of the time, and it’s better for testing and QA – after all, plenty of people are not on HiDPI screens. It does not bother me next to the MacBook’s retina screen.

I am only using one of the two USB ports that are on the monitor, and that’s for my external hard drive. I have not tested the speed and don’t plan to, but it seems to be working just fine. The thing that looks like a hub in the photo of my desk is just a charger – I almost never do any data transfer over USB besides the external HD, but I do frequently need to charge things at my desk (I also have one of these on my nightstand). If you’re curious about the desk itself, I wrote a little about it here.

Finally, there are two things under the monitor: Apple earbuds and an identically-sized USB-C dongle. There are lots of these available with various ports, but this Dell one stood out to me for its clever little folding cable and having both VGA and HDMI, which is not very common amongst its peers and fully covers my usual use case for such a thing – giving presentations. The single USB port is all I need; when on the move, I prefer faster charging with a wall charger1 or battery pack with 2.1A output. Having Ethernet is really just a bonus, but chances are it will come in handy someday. I’ve only tested the HDMI and USB ports, both of which work well with the MacBook (didn’t get full resolution on this monitor with the HDMI, though). Sadly, it’s yet-another-piece-of-black-hardware and does not have a USB-C pass-through for charging (I’m highly unlikely to actually need that), but it’s solid and perfect for carrying around in my bag – it will not be on my desk almost ever.


  1. I have two different USB wall chargers I carry depending on what I’m doing, but the one that’s particularly useful is this power strip with one outlet and four USB ports. It has a long cable, which is super convenient for awkwardly-placed outlets in hotels and Airbnbs, and it handles the higher voltage you find in most of the rest of the world by just passing it through. All I might need for international travel is whichever small plug adapter for the strip itself, as items like Apple chargers and hair dryers also handle high voltage input.

Leave a Reply